Public lecture

IAS Lecture: The Science of Clothing Comfort

IAS Lecture: The Science Of Clothing Comfort - Evaluation Of Impacts Of And Interactions With Movement.

Clothing comfort is a topic that all people are somewhat aware of, yet the science behind it is not always widely known. As a research area clothing comfort is a very applied science to a large extent based on empirical data and industry practices. Assessment of fabric comfort properties is this industry follows historical standards and data. This has resulted in a remarkable lack of scientific study of some of the every-day effects of clothing, such as effects of motion. As clothing provides a flexible 3-D soft and porous surface around the human body, human movement and comfort may be positively and negatively affected by clothing.

Negative effects of clothing on comfort are a result of the protective or other functionalities of clothing. From a physical interaction perspective, the addition of stiffness and weight around the body by definition leads to a reduction in freedom of movement as well as an increase in workload. Both will increase the effort – even slightly – to do any activity. Research has been done in this area to quantify these effects and some new has demonstrated some opportunities for EMG and human joint-movement analysis that might further support and quantify these effects.

Movement also may positively affect human comfort. Especially on human heat exchange the heat and mass transfer is strongly influenced by air flows, which may either be caused by wind or by human motion (“pumping effects”). A good amount of research has been done of these effects of wind and motion and that has led to some reliable empirical models. Yet a basic physics-based model is still lacking as the human body is a complex dynamic 3D model and some of these challenges in modeling and predicting heat exchange in dynamic environments will be addressed. Also, most applied research and industry research is focused around standardized methods and test standards and these do generally do not take effects of wind and motion into account. This leads often to significant errors in estimating insulation of clothing in real life environments.

In this lecture a short overview of some historic research work will be given, as well as an overview of the main scientific aspects of clothing comfort during movement and in dynamic conditions. As this field is at the intersection of physics, psychology, physiology as well as textiles and ergonomics, very few studies have been able to address all of these aspects combined. Thus, there are some unresolved research questions that would require novel multi-disciplinary approaches to address them, providing some exciting new areas of research.


Prof. Emiel DenHartog has worked in the area of human body temperature, effects of clothing and heat exchange for over 20 years. Starting as a researcher on modeling human heat exchange in extreme environments he moved towards the impact of protective clothing on the human body. Since 2013 he has worked at the Textile Protection And Comfort Center (TPACC) at NC State University (USA) on the interaction between clothing and the human body to optimize protection, performance and comfort of the human body. Recently his worked has focused more on the local interaction of fabrics and materials with the skin and the effects of the local microclimate on skin health. He teaches classes on Clothing Physiology and Textile Testing and publishes on comfort and protection evaluations of textiles and clothing.


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